SACRAMENTO – It was a game that was, at times, bewildering. At times crazy. At times riveting. But in the end, it was just another defeat for the Portland Trail Blazers, a 126-121 loss to the Sacramento Kings that was their third straight.
DeMarcus Cousins scored 55 points in a spectacular performance for the Kings, while alternately playing the role of hero and crazy man. Cousins won this game for Sacramento -- but could have easily lost it for the Kings, too.
There was 35 seconds to go in the game when he hit a layup to give his team a two-point edge. He was fouled on the play and supposed to go to the free-throw line to make it a three-point advantage. But first he took a detour toward the Trail Blazer bench to taunt his opponents. At that point official Brian Forte whistled Cousins for his second technical foul of the game -- and automatic ejection. Cousins immediately dashed full speed to his locker room where, he later admitted, he was just trying to figure out which objects to "tear up" in anger.
But Forte met with the other two officials and rescinded the technical.
"I called a technical foul because I thought DeMarcus threw his mouthpiece into the stands when it ended up underneath the Portland bench," Forte said. "I conferred with my partners and they confirmed that he did not throw the mouthpiece and that it came out of his mouth and that's how it ended up there."
It was a huge change in the course of the game. If Cousins had been banished, Stotts would have been able to choose who on the Kings' bench would have to shoot the ensuing free throw. Instead, Cousins knocked it down for a three-point lead.
Stotts said Forte asked him if Cousins threw the mouthpiece and Stotts said he didn't. "I thought he was getting the technical for taunting our bench, Stotts said.
Meyers Leonard, who was in the area of Cousins' venom toward the bench, said, "I can't tell you what he said. It was vile."
I'm not sure why Forte called the tech in the first place if he didn't see the mouthpiece being thrown. Or why the taunting wasn't enough reason to give him a "T." It appeared that Cousins spit the mouthpiece -- but whether it happened that way or not, it wasn't pretty.
Cousins was sensational when he was playing, though. He made 17 of 28 shots, including 5 of 8 from three-point distance and also added 13 rebounds. He was a monster. In more ways than one, I guess.
The Trail Blazers didn't blame the loss on the whole Cousins incident and shouldn't have. They had only themselves to blame.
Portland was outscored 33-22 in the final quarter while hitting only 7 of 24 shots and going 0-9 from three. After three scintillating quarters of points in the paint, outstanding passing and plenty of dunks, the Trail Blazers quit doing what worked for them and began settling for shots from distance and rushed mid-range attempts. It was a disastrous quarter for a team desperately in need of a win.
"Cousins had a terrific game," Stotts said. "Inside and outside. He was quite a force. I thought we had a good effort. I thought we competed.We just came up short."
There were some gaudy Portland numbers on the stat sheet. Damian Lillard finished with 24 points and a career-high 15 assists. CJ McCollum had 36 points and Mason Plumlee hit 10 of 13 shots en route to a career-high 27 points with 13 rebounds and 5 assists.
All for naught.
And the consolation prize for the Trail Blazers is another game Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks. Portland is finally at home after a string of eight out of nine on the road.